Mining trucks: Drivers must be free from fatigue

Driver Fatigue: Worker Sues His Employer

Mine Worker’s Accident Result of Driver Fatigue


At 6:00am on the 30th of October 2008, Harold Kerle finished his 4th straight 12-hour shift driving a dump truck at the Norwich Park coal mine. He was apparently in good spirits and looking forward to some time off but he quickly suffered from driver fatigue.

At approximately 6:30am he set off on his 430km drive home. After a couple of hundred kilometres he stopped for a half hour break at a truck stop. Then at approximately 10am, after traveling 300km, his car veered and collided with the concrete wall on a bridge he was crossing.

Mr Kerle suffered structural brain damage and remembers nothing of the incident.

Why did he crash his car? He was far too tired to be driving.

Who’s fault?

In a judgement handed down in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton on 16th December 2016, Justice Duncan McMeekin found mining company BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), contractor HMP and the labour hire company Axial did not do enough to reduce the risk of Mr Kerle being fatigued.

“Perhaps many people would be wary of attempting a five-hour drive after completing a fourth consecutive 12-hour night shift. But the statistics … support that this was commonplace among mine workers,” Justice Duncan McMeekin said, “The 2008 study showed that 81 per cent of mine workers drove alone in their cars after finishing their roster.”

The court awarded Mr Kerle, $1.25 million in damages.

What can be done?

The mine had provided permanent accommodation at the mine for workers to rest after a 12-hour shift and argued that Mr Kerle was partly responsible for managing his fatigue risk. However, based on the evidence presented, Justice Duncan McMeekin awarded the full claim, with no discount for contributory negligence by Mr Kerle.

Mr Kerle’s barrister argued his client may not have been aware of the extent of his fatigue.

According to expert witness, Prof. Drew Dawson, mining companies have fatigue management procedures but they are internal rules which don’t always take into account the latest research.

Justice McMeekin concluded that employers should educate workers about the risks of fatigue-related injury, should control shift lengths, and provide transport to and from the site.

He also concluded that people in companies that “…were involved in the decision to place men on night shift work… should have familiarised themselves with relevant safety issues”.

Need Assistance?

If you engage workers in shift work, for long shifts and/or to drive vehicles, you must consider the fatigue-related risk and put in place the required controls to ensure no one is hurt or killed. Such risk assessment and controls should be based on recognised research. OSHEM Solutions, WHS consultants, can conduct a review of your circumstance and provide an independent assessment, as well as professional advice on how to manage your risk, including our Driver Safety Program. Already had an incident? OSHEM Solutions can assist with incident investigation, as well as workers compensation and injury management.

Contact Us

Call OSHEM Solutions on 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

Woman talking on mobile phone while driving.

Driving Risk: Mobile Phone Use

Driving Risk: Hands-Free is not Risk-Free


Around the mid 1990s, phone manufacturers started to provide a speaker-phone function. In the years following, various hands-free accessories started to crop up, making use of bluetooth technology. By about 2005, high end cars started providing the opportunity to speak hands-free using bluetooth via microphones and the car speakers. These days, even budget cars have phone connectivity and many new models have various voice activated functions. Why? All in an effort to reduce the need to take your hands off the steering wheel. But has this satisfactorily reduced driving risk?

What does the research say?

Unfortunately, the risk of collision is less about what your hands are doing and more about what your mind is doing.

Various studies have shown that it’s the talking on the phone that is the biggest contributor of risk, not the holding of the phone.

In a study ‘Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile’, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, safe driving peformance of participants was tested in a lab, in a simulator and while driving a live car, using a range of methods, including the recording of brainwave activity using electroencephalographic (EEG) equipment.

Interestingly the results showed very little difference in risk between talking hands-free and hand-held.  The study identified ‘cognitive distraction’, a measure of how preoccupied drivers were doing various tasks. Distraction free driving was ranked as a score of 1, whilst hand-held and hands-free phone communication measured 2.45 and 2.27 respectively.

The distraction of talking on the phone was evident in various ways, including a 50% decline in navigation (i.e. drivers were twice as likely to miss their exit on a freeway), slower braking reaction times and reported inceased levels in effort and frustration. Speech-to-text technology, such as functions that allow you to dictate a text, email or social media update posed an even higher risk. in your business.

The overlooked risk

Most organisations overlook vehicle use when it comes to managing work health & safety (WHS). They assume that their people are competent drivers and they drive modern cars with new technology so the risk is controlled. For the most part they are right. However, this doesn’t account for the known and unknown risk taking behaviour we all engage in from time to time.

“Most organisations, most drivers, simply aren’t aware of the risk associated with various behaviours and aspects of driving,” stated Peter Gaul, Principal Consultant for OSHEM Solutions. “One of the services we provide is risk profiling an organisation to enable officers to meet their duty under the WHS Act. More often than not, driving is one of the highest risks in the organisation. In most cases, this risk has minimal controls in place”.

In fact, vehicle accidents accounts for 65% of all work-related deaths in Australia. Many more workers are injured, including 3,000 seriously injured. On average, a worker injured while driving will be off work for 5 weeks and accumulate a workers compensation cost of over $9,000. On top of this there is the cost of vehicle repairs and the effect on insurance premiums.


Carry out a risk analysis of all aspects of your organisation, including driving. Ensure that your WHS controls and programs are addressing the highest risk in your business. Also ensure that you have suitable mechanisms to verify the controls remain in place and are effective.

When it comes to hands-free, remember that hands-free does not equate to risk free. Where possible, make calls before or after your journey. If you must make or receive calls, keep them simple and quick. Never take your eyes off the road. If you find yourself being distracted by the call, terminate it or pull over.

Need Assistance?

If you require assistance risk profiling your organisation, OSHEM Solutions, health & safety consultants, can conduct a risk analysis and/or facilitate a risk assessment workshop.

If you require assistance identifying and managing the risks of driving in your organisation, contact OSHEM Solutions about our Safer Drivers Program. It’s based on research-proven methodology and comes with a results guarantee.

Contact Us

Call OSHEM Solutions on 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

Driver driving his car safely on the road

Driver Safety Program

Driver Safety Program: Reducing Driving Risk


According to research conducted by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, vehicle deaths account for 13% of death for males aged 15 to 44; second only to suicide. This risk is significant to any organisation. Do you have a driver safety program as part of your workplace risk management?

The Case for Reducing Driving Risk

Even more staggering, is that vehicles are the number one cause of death at work, accounting for 65% of all workplace fatalities.

Driving incidents which do not prove fatal result in an average of 5 weeks off work and a workers compensation costs of $9,000 or more.

Finally, nearly 60 bystanders have been killed in the last 10 years by people driving work-related vehicles. These are customers, visitors, members of the public.

Without a doubt driving is one of the most significant WHS risks in your business.

How do you currently manage this risk?

In all likelihood, you mainly rely on the numerous engineering controls that come as standard in the modern fleet, supplemented by your drivers experience. For monitoring and supervision, you rely upon the plethora of fixed speeding and red light cameras, along with the services of your state or territory police.

For the most part, this probably serves you reasonably well. However, it doesn’t take into account drivers who have learned bad habits, make poor decisions for a range of reasons, or who make errors.

Training and Behaviour Options

There are a range of training and behavioural options available. For a long time, defensive driving was the solution to managing driving risk. Unfortunately, subsequent research showed mixed results with some studies showing drivers became over confident after completing the training and actually increased their risk taking behaviours.

Some organisations have gone down the paid incentive path, however this too has mixed results, often costing the organisation money before and after incidents.

OSHEM Solutions’ Safer Drivers Program

The “Safer Drivers Program” acknowledges that your drivers generally know how to drive safe. It recognises that they drive the safest cars we have ever seen. Instead, it helps your drivers to identify the aspects of their driving which are unsafe and encourages them to consciously make a decision to change.

The program also includes an assessment of how your organsational culture and management actions which could be contributing to driver risk taking.

Research shows that the processes used in our program are more successful at reducing the number and severity of fleet accidents than customised driver skills training, safety awareness campaigns and even paid incentives.

We are so confident that it works, we provide a guarantee. Contact us to find out more.

Contact Us

If you would like to know more about the OSHEM Solutions’ “Safer Drivers Program”, or any of the other WHS consultant services we provide, call 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

Men's mental health: Two young men with pretend mustaches

November: Men’s Mental Health

Workplace Mental Health

November is Men’s Month

It’s that time of year when various brave souls grow a mo’ to raise money for a bro’. Yes, it’s Movember. Now celebrated throughout the world, Movember is arguably the most publicised and successful men’s health campaign ever and workplace mental health is a growing area of concern for employers.

November is also the month that we celebrate International Men’s Day. A day to focus on boys’ and men’s health, promote improvement in gender relations and celebrate the positive role models males can be in society and the workplace.

We therefore thought it was a good time of the year for us to dig into the national data and find out what we can all do to improve the safety of young working men as part of a workplace mental health program.

Data Crunching

To do this we accessed the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s, Leading Causes of Death data. We identified the top 20 causes for males aged 15-24. We also identified the top 20 causes for males aged 25-44. Due to the similarities, we added the data to identify the top 3 across the total age range.

Top 3 Causes of Death

The top 3 causes of death for males aged 15 to 44 are

  • Suicide 23%
  • Land Transport 13%
  • Accidental Poisoning 10%

Reducing Risk

Mental health is the topic of much debate for policy makers and the media. Unfortunately, it has been for some time now. It’s staggering to think that nearly a quarter of all male deaths 15 to 44 die at their own hand. For 15 to 24 year olds this rises to over 29%. Clearly this problem has no simple solution but that shouldn’t stop us from acting. What has this got to do with work?

It’s well documented that work plays a significant role in a person’s sense of self-worth. Like school, work can be a source of new supportive friendships but it can also be a source of bullying. Work pressures or sense of failure can absolutely contribute to a suicide. The workplace can even be the location that someone chooses for their suicide, causing terrible trauma to co-workers. Due to the influence our work has on us all, it can be a valuable weapon in the battle against mental ill-health and the resultant risk of suicide.

Here’s some questions to consider about your workplace:

  • Have your supervisors and managers provided with the necessary development to ensure they have the skills to respectfully obtain the best from their people?
  • Have you implemented policies and procedures to minimise the risk of bullying and harassment? Do you monitor and verify that controls are working? Are all reports investigated in a professional manner?
  • Are roles, complaint processes and escalation pathways clearly defined and readily accessible?
  • Does your Health & Safety consultation arrangement (e.g. WHS committee) have mental health within its documented scope?
  • Do you include psychological risk in your risk assessments – e.g. risk of claustrophobia in confined spaces or acrophobia when working at height, how about including mental trauma as a potential consequence, such as for bank works who are involved in a robbery or lone workers who could be the victim of a verbally or physically assaulted?
  • Do you consider mental health risk to workers as part of business decision making – e.g. ensuring open and honest communication and support throughout down-sizing, considering the extra workload on workers when not replacing people who leave, considering work-life balance when modifying shift arrangements, avoiding redundancy leading up to Christmas holidays, etc.
  • Are there Human Resources or other specialists support roles within the business who have the expertise to assist your people in tough times?
  • Does your organisation have a well-resourced and communicated Employee Assistance Program?

This is not an exhaustive list of actions to take to improve mental health in your workplace but it’s certainly a start.

In future articles, we will consider how the workplace can manage the next two biggest risks, vehicle use and hazardous chemicals.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about how OSHEM Solutions can assist you with a range of risk management programs, call 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

What is Safe Design | OSHEM Solutions

What is Safe Design

An Introduction to Safe Design

What is Safe Design?

Sometimes referred to as “safety in design”, this is the discipline of identifying risks (typically to constructors, end-users and maintainers) and eliminating them, or integrating control measures to minimise them, during the design process.

Why should I implement safety into my design processes?

Besides the opportunity to minimise delays, reduce the risk of injury or death to users, and improve client satisfaction, Safe Design is a legal requirement under the WHS Act. Section 22 of the Act requires designers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that a structure is designed to be without risks to the health and safety of persons who construct the structure, use the structure as a workplace, or carry out any reasonable foreseeable activity.

Who is considered a designer under the Act?

A designer is anyone whose work involves preparing sketches, plans or drawings for a structure, including anyone who makes variations to a plan or otherwise changes a structure. This could be the designer, the constructor, or even the client in some instances.

Other examples include architects, building designers, engineers, building surveyors, interior designers, landscape architects, town planners, and specialist designers, such as those who design ventilation, electrical systems, or drainage.

It should be noted that if you modify a design without consulting the designer, you take on the WHS legal obligations of a designer.

What is the scope of the Safe Design risk assessment?

Safe Design considers the whole of life-cycle, from construction through to demolition and disposal. It’s often best to schedule multiple risk assessments throughout the design process to consider these different aspects.

When do I need to start Safe Design?

It’s a current requirement of WHS law and was actually included in previous laws in most jurisdictions of Australia.

In terms of when to schedule it in your design process, risks should be identified throughout, starting at concept development. At this early stage, risk management may contribute to decisions about intended use(s), location, and proposed materials.

What if I’m a constructor, not a designer?

Under WHS regulations, you must consult with the designer, so far as is reasonably practicable, to determine how health and safety risks to you and your people, arising from their design, can be eliminated or minimised.

You must also provide the designer with any hazard information that you have been provided by the client, or identified through other means (e.g. surveys, testing, etc.).

Finally, as previously mentioned, you must ensure that you do not modify the design without first consulting the designer. The designer will consider any health & safety implications of your suggested changes before giving you the go ahead.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about Safe Design or need assistance to implement this or other WHS legal requirements in your organisation, call OSHEM Solutions on 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

OSHEM Solutions | Workplace Incident Investigation of sleeping Worker

Workplace Incident Investigation of sleeping Worker

Workplace Incident Investigation Findings: Fire the Worker


According to the workplace incident investigation and court records, the timeline was as follows:

18th December 2014: MSS Security worker found asleep during his shift at a power plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, by a plant supervisor.

9th January 2015: Power plant reports the incident to MSS Security.

27th January 2015: After continue working normal shifts, MSS Security send letter to the worker alleging serious misconduct.

29th January 2015: Worker’s employment is terminated.

Worker claims unfair dismissal.

The Arguments

Worker: The worker claimed it was unfair to dismiss him as his falling asleep was the result of “exceptional circumstances” in that his mother had been admitted to hospital for a possible serious injury, and he was unable to sleep due to worrying about her.

The Company: MSS Security argued that the worker was fully aware of his obligation to manage his fatigue and had in fact attended training only 10 days before. Falling asleep was one of the most serious infringements of company policy as it “disables your ability to perform your role effectively and may place your own or others’ health, safety or welfare in jeopardy”. They argued that the worker had not notified his situation, nor sought to use his leave to obtain additional sleep.

The Verdict

The Fair Work Commission found that the worker failed to properly assess his fitness for work, which was “fundamentally inconsistent” with his duties as a security officer.

Senior Deputy President, Matthew O’Callaghan, accepted that the worker “was not asleep for very long. Nevertheless, the observation of [the worker] being asleep on duty by an Alinta Energy supervisor must undermine the standing of MSS as a security service provider with its client.”

He also “concluded that [the worker’s] wrong assessment of his fitness for work which resulted in him falling asleep represented a valid reason for the termination of his employment.”

However, he also expressed concern about the length of time MSS Security took to conduct the workplace incident investigation and deal with the incident, stating “I have concluded that the absence of earlier action to investigate the matter was inconsistent with the significance.

He also observed that the worker had continued working without any other incidents.

“I consider that [the worker’s] summary dismissal must be regarded as harsh in that it was a disproportionate response to his behaviour given that he had worked for some six weeks after the incident without further complaint and had continued to work after MSS was, or should reasonably, have been aware of the matter.”

The worker was reinstated.

Lesson Learned

Workplace incidents must be investigated with an urgency and thoroughness proportionate to the severity of the incident.

Where persons have negligently or recklessly carried out their duties, they should be dealt with in a prompt and transparent manner.

If you require assistance with your fatigue management or incident management processes, call OSHEM Solutions on 1300 657 279 or Contact Us by email.

WHS Management System consultant with tablet

WHS Management System

Management Systems

What is a management system?

According to AS/NZS ISO 9001 (the forerunner to the WHS management system standard ISO45001 and the environmental management system (EMS) standard AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004), organisations must identify and manage numerous linked activities to function effectively. It goes on to discuss the need for managing resources, inputs and outputs etc, making the point that only through a systematic or process approach will an organisation be able to maintain control. Put simply, a management system is the structure that enables organisations to manage the way they operate.

Why formalise?

Some may argue that organisations exist, possibly even flourish, without a Quality, Environment, or even WHS management system. However, upon closer inspection, this is not the case. All successful organisations have values, policies, procedures, standard processes and practices. Whether documented or not, these are the components of that organisation’s system of management. By formalising this system, an organisation has the opportunity to review its performance, determine what works and does not work, agree to the preferred processes and proactively manage its performance.

Pitfalls of buying a system

An all too common response is for an organisation to seek to buy a management system ‘off the shelf’. Without the necessary contextualisation or engagement of relevant stakeholders during the design, are not only likely to be a wrong fit for the business but they will fail to gain the momentum to survive or could even be sabotaged from within the organisation.

A management system needs to be owned and operated by the organisation. No CEO worth their salt would dream to publish company vision, values or policy which they had simply downloaded from the internet and yet they may consider managing workplace health and safety, quality and/or environmental management this way.

Pitfalls of designing a system

Unfortunately interpreting standards and developing a system can be quite complex. Even practitioners highly skilled in their relevant discipline can find it difficult negotiating the process and producing something that meets the relevant criteria. Alternatively, many organisations end up with a system that meets all the requirements but results in a situation where their people are slaves to documentation without seeing any added value to their processes or improvement in their performance.

WHS Management System Solution

So an ‘off-the-shelf’ system is not the right approach but your organisation doesn’t have the internal expertise to develop a system ‘in-house’, what’s the answer? In the same way CEOs and boards of directors seek independent legal advice, due diligence from an accountant auditing firm, or the expert opinion of an engineer, there are many instances where the design, development, implementation and review of management systems can require external experts; environmental and WHS consultants.

When seeking this expertise, consider the providers background, experience, qualifications and past successes. If the consultant isn’t qualified to audit the applicable standard, then how could the design a system to meet it? If they have no actual industry experience then how will they adapt the cold hard pages of generic requirements to your business need? Seek referrals, do background checks, ask for references.

Contact Us

As a professional Environmental and WHS Consultancy, OSHEM Solutions, provides a range of Work Health and Safety (WHSMS), Environmental (EMS), and Integrated Management System services, including design & development, implementation, audit & workplace inspection and review.

Tap on this link to find out more about the type of services we provide, including case studies. If you would like more information on management systems, including how we can assist your organisation in developing something to meet your unique needs call us on 1300 657 279 or by email: Contact Us.

OSHEM Solutions | A Question of 'Reasonably Practicable'

A Question of ‘Reasonably Practicable’

A Question of ‘Reasonably Practicable’

Harmonisation of WHS Legislation

Back in October 2007, Labor’s Industrial Relations spokesperson, Julia Gillard, announced that a Labor Government would move towards a more harmonised approach to work health & safety and Workers Compensation legislation within Australia.

By May 2008 the now Industrial Relations Minister, was announcing that a national review would be undertaken of Work Health and Safety laws and public submissions were being sort on an issue paper with 152 questions.

By the submission closing date, 11th July, in excess of 240 submissions had been received from across the country. Respondents include industry groups, professional associations, government, major companies, universities and unions.

OSHEM Solutions undertook a review of the submissions of various key stakeholders across a range of issues that have been at the forefront of WHS legislation debate for several years. First up, is the question of ‘Reasonably Practicable’.

The Notion of Reasonably Practicable

All of the submissions reviewed by OSHEM Solutions showed some level of support for the notion of ‘reasonably practicable’ being included in WHS legislation. However, the positioning of the term within the legislation can dramatically shift the balance from one of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to the reverse, as is often the criticism of the NSW legislation.

Several of the unions, including the Australian Workers Union (Queensland), Unions NSW, Australian Council of Trade Unions and National Union of Workers support a NSW style approach where absolute duty to provide a safe workplace is upon the employer. Given an unsafe event, the onus is then upon the employer to prove that it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to control the hazard.

It is likely that this is the reason that the responses from employer groups such as the Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, National Farmers Federation and the Independent Contractors of Australia reject the use of ‘reasonably practicable’ as a defence and would prefer if the term was instead attached to the duty of employers. In other words, the submissions agree that employers must provide a safe workplace provided it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so. If adopted, such a position could reduce, if not eliminate, the guilt of an employer who’s employee is injured as a result of their own skylarking, bi-passing of controls or failure to adhere to correct procedures.

Whilst it is not surprising that these two groups would hold their relative opposing positions, it is interesting to note that the attachment of ‘reasonably practicable’ to the duty, as opposed to a defence, is also a position that is supported by both NSW Law Society and the Law Council of Australia. Additionally, this approach has been supported by the inquiry undertaken by former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal and the NSW Supreme Court, Paul Stein, in what is often dubbed ‘The Stein Report’.

OSHEM Solutions | Managing OHS & E in Troubled Times

Managing OHS & E in Troubled Times

Managing OHS & E in Troubled Times

State of the Market

Whilst there is debate in every corner as to the size of the impact the global slow down will have on Australia, there is consensus that we will continue to see reduced liquidity, reduced business and consumer confidence and an increase in our record low unemployment rate.

Business Response to Reduced Cash Flow

According to the Australian Industry Group (AIG) / American Express Survey – “Managing Cash Flow in Troubled Times” survey, only 12% of Australian businesses are likely to take on projects with an above average financial risk within rest of this financial year. 65% of the 354 companies surveyed cited a ‘cut back or greater control of their spending’ as one of their key strategies to manage cash flow concerns.

Unique ‘Recession’

Assuming this is or will be a recession we are experiencing, it is likely to differ from those previously experienced. In the past any downturn has been met with dramatic slashing of jobs and unemployment rates hitting double figures. However there are unique demographic circumstances this time round, which could limit the impact on employment numbers. The spike in post war birth rates resulted in the baby-boomer generation, coupled with subsequent decades of decreasing birth rates means that we are now starting to experience a net loss of our workforce each year. That is, less people are joining our workforce than leaving it and, as more and more baby-boomers retire, this gap is likely to increase. Add this to the skills shortage we are experiencing and the smart money is on hiring and retaining good people, even in hard times. This view is supported by the findings of the aforementioned survey with 75% of respondents stating they will maintain or even increase their staffing levels.

Affect on OHS & E’

So what has all this got to do with managing OHS & E? Well assuming there is not a massive cut in the workforce, another tactic, often used in combination, is a reduction in what organisations see as as ‘discretionary spending’. Unfortunately most organisations take a short term view of this and the first and hardest hit is training and professional development. Another common strategy is the delay of capital projects. Both of these areas can impact on work health & safety and environmental management. Managers and Supervisors miss out on the training and coaching they need to assist them in meeting their duties. Employee representatives go on untrained or unsupported. Capital expenditure requests to eliminate or control hazards, manage corrective actions or implement improvement plans are moved to the bottom of the pile. However, organisations who take this approach do so at their own peril. Compliance is not discretionary. In times when retaining a positive company profile, managing costs and avoiding risk are crucial, fines or prosecution can be catastrophic.

A Sound Approach

A sound approach to managing OHS & E in hard times is the exact same one used when times are good – Risk Management. By compiling a list of all potential actions, assessing the risk associated with each and prioritising, organisations are strongly positioned to ensure compliance as well as reduce risk profile. A long-term, sustainability strategy recognises that risk reduction not only increases organisational survival rates but also productivity. Furthermore, safe and healthy employees cost less, increase throughput, have reduced absenteeism and are more likely to be retained.

Professional Assistance

The good news is that more and more organisations are recognising this and risk management is no longer a fad but a way of conducting business. Furthermore, the AIG / American Express survey found that most organisations recognise that there are times when they require professional assistance to achieve risk reduction in a cost affective way. Even in these lean times 65% of those surveyed stated that they will retain the same level of ‘Business and Professional Services’ in the coming 6 months. In fact over 10% were planning to increase their usage of these experts. These organisations know that by partnering with high quality professionals they can achieve on-going returns. They also recognise that in a marketplace where in-house subject matter experts are hard to find and retain, maintaining a relationship with the right consultant(s) is crucial. If you would like to read some examples of our risk management assignments, click here.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss how our expert OHS/WHS and Environmental Consultants can assist you and your organisation in reducing risk and/or develop your own people call us on 1300 657 279 or via email: contact us.

OSHEM Solutions | OHS Implications of an Aging Workforce

OHS Implications of an Aging Workforce

OHS Implications of an Aging Workforce

Australia, like the rest of the western world, has an aging population. With decreased birth rates and the ‘Baby Boomers’ now aged between 45 and 65, the nature of our workforce is vastly different then it has ever been in our history, with implications both immediate and into the foreseeable future.

According to the 2006 census, approximately 38% of the Australian working population is 45 or over, with 15% aged 55 or over. With still relatively low levels of unemployment, a previous long period of economic growth and an ongoing skills shortage, both the current and former federal governments have a policy of encouraging mature workers to get in and stay in the workforce for as long as they can. Most employers are already responding by implementing their own policies to eliminate age discrimination and pave the way to recruit mature workers, whilst competing heavily to retain the wealth of experience they have in their current workforce.

Unfortunately recent history shows that the work health and safety (WHS) management of this work group is failing. Contra to popular belief, statistics year after year show that ‘baby boomers’ are disproportionately represented in both injury and fatality statistics. In fact employees aged 45 or over are 20% more likely than someone under 45 to have an injury serious enough to require a Workers Compensation claim. This increases to 30% if the worker is 55 or older.

The news is even more grim when it comes to fatalities. Employees aged 45 or over are 57% more likely than a younger worker to die of a work related injury or illness. Whilst work related death rates of employees 55+ and 65+ are 2.5 times and 4 times higher than someone 44 or under.

Given the demographics, organisations wishing to sustain their current levels of productivity not only need to embrace the mature labour market, they need to target it. However Occupational Health and Safety Professionals must work with management to turn the injury and death statistics around. Mature workers have different needs not only in areas of remuneration, work-life and human resources but also in the management of their work health and safety.

If you would like assistance developing a strategy for managing the health and safety of your mature workers, Contact Us.

Injury and Fatality Incident Rates calculated using data provided by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.